Friday, March 30, 2007

Since you asked.

This is via BB, who swiped it from bb and that's as far back as I've traced the damned thing.

10 FAVORITES
Favorite Color: pink

Favorite Food: hard-seared steak & shaved gorgonzola, fresh pasta with porcini & marsala
Favorite Month: July
Favorite Song: (at this moment, tomorrow it'll be a different thing) The Offspring - Gotta Get Away

Favorite Movie: Pulp Fiction or The Right Stuff.
Favorite Sport: golf (used to be surfing, but then again, I used to be 22)
Favorite Season: summer
Favorite Day of the week: Saturday
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: chocolate chocolate chip
Favorite Time of Day: the nanosecond everyone else is asleep

9 CURRENTS
Current Mood: mildly worried
Current Taste: orange juice
Current Clothes: khakis and denim buttondown, socks

Current Desktop: This
Current Toenail Color: "Toenail"
Current Time: 10:17 a.m.
Current Surroundings: dining room, cooking magazines, mail and NOS's homework
Current Thoughts: Untold wealth could come in handy

8 FIRSTS
First Best Friend: Aldo Ottati
First Kiss: 15, behind the Kodak film booth in WDW's Tomorrowland. Her name was Debbie.
First Screen Name: AYMS
First Pet: Lobo, the indolent German Shepherd
First Piercing: Nice try.
First Crush: Priscilla Higgins in 5th Grade
First CD: 1812 Overture.

7 LASTS
Last Cigarette: 1982. It was a Dunhill.
Last Drink: Limoncello
Last Car Ride: a ride home from the drugstore
Last Kiss: TFBIM's 7am buh-bye
Last Movie Seen: In the movie theater?I have NFI. Something animated, probably.

Last Phone Call: 30 min. ago, my kid sister
Last CD Played: Donald Fagen's The Nightfly, but it was a DVD-A

6 HAVE YOU EVERS
Have You Ever Dated One Of Your Best Guy/Girl Friends: Married her, too. To our mutual surprise.
Have You Ever Broken the Law: Practically every time I get into third gear.
Have You Ever Been Arrested: Close, but no.
Have You Ever Skinny Dipped: Nope (down heah that means salt water and...no.)
Have You Ever Been on TV: yep
Have You Ever Kissed Someone You Didn’t Know: I may have, your Honor, I have no clear recollection of that.

5 THINGS
Thing You’re Wearing: glasses, khakis and denim buttondown, socks, watch
Thing You’ve Done Today: Set a bunch of mushrooms to dry
Thing You Can Hear Right Now: NOS whining because he must do his homework
Thing You Can’t Live Without: books
Thing You Do When You’re Bored: read

4 PLACES YOU’VE BEEN TODAY
bed
bathroom
kitchen
garage


3 PEOPLE YOU CAN TELL ANYTHING TO
Whichever of three priests is in the confessional

2 CHOICES
Black or White: black
Hot or Cold: hot weather and cold everything else

1 THING YOU WANT TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE
See all my children issue me several decent grandchildren

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:09 AM 12 comments

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Oy. (Pictures to follow.)

The thing about being me is that everything, eventually, will happen to me. People who are fulltime SAHPs don't have office drama, and people who fulltime not-SAHPs don't have to fight the war on the home front.

But I get to see both sides of it. Which is very cool in that you get perspective and find common ground with assorted people you otherwise wouldn't have. When I say it's very cool, I mean, naturally, not while you're in the middle of it.

NOS woke up blazing* with fever. As is often the case, TFBIM puts these things where I wouldn't, and as such I couldn't find the thermometer. Many SAHPs would have gone in a blind panic, but not I, Mr. Expedient. We marched into the kitchen and applied the Williams-Sonoma roasting thermometer. (Yes, I scrubbed it soapily before and afterwards, sheesh.) This gave us our febrile reading.

NOS, who in this regard takes after the TFBIM side, is incapable of feeling bad and not verbalizing it; with much in the way of dramatic flourish for effect. This means that I had to listen to whinging, moaning, complaints and imprecations as I dressed in a rush, dressed the kids in a rush; of course NTS had to be dropped off at school, and only then we could to head for the pediatrician's office.

The way our pediatrician works is that there are 4 (5?) slots per hour and kids without an appointments (i.e., those who woke up sick) are given the last slot of the hour. So, this means that if you arrive and look in the "sick" waiting room, for every person ahead of you it means one hour of waiting.

We got relatively lucky and arrived just before 9am, so there were only 3 people ahead of us. Anyway, we managed to get out around lunchtime after a session in which NOS was jabbed, prodded, peered and measured in every conceivable way. Diagnosis: some sort of tonsil/throat infection thing. He is to take antibiotics and ibuprofen and stay put. Which, incidentally is a rare thing. He is now flopped on the couch having been force-fed lunch.

So, rather winded from these activities, I sat down to have an espresso, since I had rushed out sans caffeine in the morning. I turn on the machine and it starts making all the appropriate whirring and cranking noises when, outa the clear blue

SNAP!

A loud crack rent the air, as if someone had snapped a bone within a foot of my ear. The espresso machine started gushing forth as it had some sort of tropical digestive malady.

The "superior filter," by cracking at the base and at the screw fitting [PRETEND THERE IS A PHOTO HERE] had shuffled off its mortal coil and joined the café invisible. The machine was as useless [PRETEND THERE IS ANOTHER PHOTO HERE] as -- WARNING -- "a dead rat in a tampon factory."**

Fortunately, even though it's been outa warranty since forever and has about 4K shots on the clock, the Customer Service guy comped me the relevant parts and is sending them USPS Priority. He is even sending updated paperwork and giving us an extended warranty for free.

SOMETIMES, not always, but sometimes, the goodness of humanity surprises me.

-J.

*103F/41C
** That's from Top Secret!

Posted by Joke at 12:45 PM 8 comments

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

WDW Report

The trip, which we employed as an excuse to schlep up to Orlando and hang with the Buxoms, was a pretty decent hit.

Normally, WDW is for us more of a military expedition than a vacation. Yes, that's my damage, but I'm in this family too, and thus we all suffer my weirdness equally.


The trip started off off wobblingly when I called to make reservations. The Buxoms would be staying at the Polynesian and we wanted to do likewise. So I called and checked out the prices and the person on the phone, who had evidently learned English the weekend prior, told me the price per night was Tree Hawn Raid In Fie Dallas.

Ouch.

So I asked about some others in the vicinity and they are booked solid. The Wilderness Lodge, however, is available at Tao Hawn Raid In Nigh Tan Dallas. Well, it's way more than I, legendary Cheap Bastid To The Stars, am willing to pay normally but a) it's only a couple of nights and b) we are really going up to see the Buxoms more than we are Mickey Mouse. So what the Hell, right?

It turns out that Tao Hawn Raid In Nigh Tan Dallas is $290, not $219. For the $15/night diff we coulda bunked within a few feet of the Buxoms. Feh. So that was not a good sign. Then, on the day of departure -- immediately after dressing* at warp speed -- we ran into traffic. Those of you who reside in metropolitan areas which were developed before the advent of the automobile will not really know what I am talking about, but it was horrible. Normally this trip takes (door-to-door) 3.5 hours. We had driven 2 hours and barely gone 50 miles. At 3pm, not rush hour. Ther was rain, there was construction, there were accidents. Mind you, Poppy had her own troubles with which she'll regale you.

Anyway, a good two hours behind schedule we arrived at Poppy's hotel JUST IN TIME for our dinner reservations. We sat and chatted amiably for a long while and I inhaled a Mai Tai which might've been delicious had I taken the time to actually taste it. I may have even accidentally eaten poultry on Friday which is a Papist Lenten no-no. But tears now are of no avail. Dinner arrived and was yummy and promptly inhaled as well.

The next morning we woke up and arrived to get our WDW annual passes. I had outright lied to TFBIM and told her the park would open at 8am (each day one park opens early for guests who stay on-site) because I know she's, um, not at her quickest first thing and even at her quickest it's not, y'know, quick. So we were in line to get our tickets by around 8:35am and into the park in the nick of time.

The Buxoms had paperwork issues (Poppy'll explain) and were delayed but caught up with us around Splash Mountain, which Master Buxom and NOS rode while Poppy and I driveled utterly without care. Stop and ponder that throughout a flume/rollercoaster hybrid ride, two people can just chat goofily and unconcernedly. We rode a couple more things, went to lunch which was pretty good and where both Poppette and NTS behaved, which is akin to Stevie Wonder solving a Rubik's Cube in 4 moves: something that only happens by miraculous chance...a planetary alignment kinda thing.

Eventually, we meandered back to the Poly for some well-deserved refreshment and, other than NTS threatening -- pretty damned effectively, too -- a meltdown unless allowed to swim all was well. We had dinner, saw distant fireworks, saw the aquatic parade, took our huggy-huggy, mwah-mwah leave of the Buxoms who had an early day in the opposite direction and scampered off to sleep.

Now, Internet, you know that I am not much of a sleeper. But I was dog tired. In fact, it was midnight when I got out of the shower and 2am when I realized I hadn't rinsed off my conditioner. I had to switch pillows, but my hair is super manageable and silky soft.

And that was our trip.

-J.

* We array ourselves in matching Disney garb so as not to get lost, etc. Shut up.

Posted by Joke at 8:14 AM 15 comments

Monday, March 26, 2007

The more things change, the more they stay unlike whatever the Hell made you like them in the first place.

Dammit.

Those of you who have been with me since the early days of my ceaseless efforts to bring civilized tastefulness and pleasant geniality to the world, will recall I had at one point touted the manifold wonders of Drinks Magazine.

The thrill is gone, baby.

I just got the most recent issue in my never-to-be-renewed subscription, and it's the latest in a series of ratcheting disappointments. I am, by nature a very conservative guy. If I like X, I want it to stay X. If I had wanted Y, dammit, I'd've gone looking for it.

Anyway. This magazine, as with all magazines which I love has devolved in an impressively rapid spiral. It used to be a magazine of impressive heft and content. It has now, in the throes of a prostitutive senescence, dwindled to a mere 35 pages from its more impressive 100something, perfect-bound purity of just a year ago. The paper is flimsier and less glossy, and the page could is barely half what it was 6 months ago, when the editorial rot had managed to set in. To add imprecative insult to grievous injury, it's now shilling passing as the house organ of a wine and cheese shop in Minnesota.

Other than the winters which recall the 1970s' scare du jour (global cooling, for the new kids) and the distressing lack of oceanfront property there is nothing wrong with Minnesota. DIH lives there and except for being infested with squirrels, I have yet to hear her complain or mention duress as a reason convincing her to leave New York in favor of Minneapolis. But -- and follow me closely here -- I do not live in Minnesota. Rather, I live 82 states away from Minnesota. I live as far from Minnesota as is possible to reside and still dwell within one of the United States.

Yet half of the clumsily directed content has to do with all the great events and specials and sales at the XYZ Wine and Cheese Shop in Moose Teat, MN. A charming locale where, it bears repeating, I am not (nor am I likely to be) among the residents unlikely as that may seem to the good people at XYZ Wine and Cheese, who doubtlessly frittered away a hunk of their marketing budget spent good money to get my name appended to their cooperative thing the magazine has been reduced to doing for pocket change.

You will also be shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- to know there has been no (zip, zilch, nada, zero) explanation for this impressive downmarket drift which began, if memory serves, around August 2006. Almost all of the columnists which gave the magazine it's editorial vibrancy have long since fled to greener pastures. Or maybe just for the tall grass. Anthony Dias Blue and the very estimable David Wondrich are the only recognizable "names." Wondrich has been reduced to a mere half page. This means the poor bastard cranks out two pages a year.

So, why this magazine has been co-opted by a particularly vulgar strain of commercialism is beyond me. I don't mind commercialism, vulgar or otherwise, I do mind being conscripted in showering my pennies thereon. It's like going to sleep with Bo Derek and waking up with Bo Diddley.

So, I still receive this ever-diminishing shadow of a memory into my home and give it a place. But it's not the girl I married.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 12:45 PM 15 comments

Your reading this blog is very important to us. All of our bloggers are currently busy writing hilarious, poignant posts. A blogger'll be with you...

OK.

While I compose a sort of WDW post-mortem, I bring you the book meme which I swiped from the lovely and gracious Badger.

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?
Given the weirdness of my reading material, whatever I can get. Ceteris paribus, I prefer hardback.

Amazon or brick and mortar?
Neither, fools! I go to addall.com (big TY to BabBab) and get it from whosoever gives me the best deal.While the whole indie bookstore trip seems appealing, unless they have something otherwise not gettable (as is invariably the case with used bookstores, a national treasure just behind libraries) I really don't see the point. Nobody gets hopped up about independent gasoline stations.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?
BN, because I can order online, get free shipping AND NOT PAY SALES TAX. If you know me, any time I can get away with not giving the gummint any of my money, I am happy. They are also a lot closer and carry the weird Brit magazines I like. Besides, Border's often has this sort of Stevie Nicks, ærie-færie/hippy-trippy thing going on that disorients me. (No, I really don't need a Chakra Herbal Reading Crystal Hat, thanks.)

Bookmark or dogear?
Dogear? People DOGEAR? That's like saying an adulterous wifebeater really loves the Missus. One does not dogear books any more than one dogears a child to find him (or her) where you left him (or her).

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
By group, and by author within group.

Keep, throw away, or sell?
I sometimes give away if the cause is noble or if I miraculously have a spare. But that's it. We had to rent a storage space (+/- 800 cu. ft.) just to hold books. And some magazines.

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
Keep.

Read with dust jacket or remove it?
Like Badge said, it serves as an emergency bookmark.

Short story or novel?
Either.

Collection (short stories by same author) or anthology (short stories by different authors)?
Collection. Anthologies are too scattershot. An anthology is like having a woman-not-your-wife come in and rearrange the closet the way they do it at her house.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
HP. There is a faux-cynical thing going on with LS, and the fact they stuck Jim Carrey in the film--thereby killing the film series, but nobody asked me at casting time--which means my brain simply doesn't click therewith.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
What is this "tired" of which you speak?

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
Once upon a time it was a dark and stormy night. Duh.

Buy or Borrow?
Buy. Preferably as cheaply as possible, but I like ownership.

New or used?
Whatever is cheapest assuming mint shape. Or used if that's the only thing going.

Buying choice: book reviews, recommendation or browse?
Browse. Someone has to have an exceptionally similar taste to mine to be allowed entry into my suggestion box. People who say things like "The character of Mabel moved me deeply." are considered suspect, suggestions-wise.

Tidy ending or cliffhanger?
Tidy. Cliffhangers mean I have been suckered into buying the next book.

Morning reading, afternoon reading or nighttime reading?
Whenever I am kleft the Hell alone.

Stand-alone or series?
Whatever is well-written with characters which do not move me.

Favorite series?
The Hitchhiker's series by Douglas Adams, the Uncle Fred series and Bertie/Jeeves series by PG Wodehouse.

Favorite children's book?
Whichever book does not prompt a child of mine to pipe up with "Daddy, what's 'scrotum' anyway?"

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
Night of the Avenging Blowfish by John Welter which I keep touting but you people keep refusing to read. Yes, it is funny to the extent that people with respiratory problems oughtn't attempt more than a page a day and no, no characters will move you, nor will you be inspired. (Except by a rather disturbing scene with a strawberry, and then only if you're weirder than I am, which is saying a lot.) You will not find characters who have been estranged from their mothers, or women dying of consumption, or lifelong friends coming to a bittersweet end. You will find incandescent dialogue and unorthodox use of luncheon meat.

Favorite books read last year?
Hell and Other Destinations by Piers Paul Read. Spy Magazine: The Funny Years. The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt.

Favorite books of all time?
Uncle Dynamite, Night of the Avenging Blowfish, Code of the Woosters, The White House Mess.

Least favorite book you finished last year?
Given that I am an inveterate browser, I never read a book which I won't enjoy. That said The Nasty Bits by Tony Bourdain was, um, uneven.

What was the last book you finished?
Heat by Bill Buford.

What are you reading right now?
Fork It Over by Alan Richman. (Sort of a flipside to Kitchen Confidential.)

What are you reading next?
Whatever I scored on half.com that I've forgotten and will arrive next. All I know is there will be no characters which will move me. Nor story lines which I'll find inspirational. It is hoped it will prove a wholesome break from food books.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 9:54 AM 4 comments

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Back!

Just back from WDW where we were loitering with Poppy and the Buxoms. We had great (if brief) fun.

I'm dog-tired. More tomorrow.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:30 PM 3 comments

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Exalting the humble.

There is one kitchen item without which my kitchen wouldn't really be mine. I speak type of the Mason Jar.
I have a prodigious number of these. All my friends and family know to keep a sharp eye for these and to give them to me. Mostly I get the ones that are pasta sauce size (24 oz, I think), but about 25% of the time I get larger or smaller ones.
There is a reason why I love these jars and it has to do with one of those kitchen loyalties of mine: My Oster blender.


Y'see, dear Internet, upon the neck of the Mason jar, the base (containing the base, gasket and blade) of the Oster blender fits P-E-R-F-E-C-T-L-Y. So, I often cram things into such a jar, thread on the Oster base, put it on the blender and -- zap!-- I have pesto. Or chimichurri, or soy/sesame marinade or roast vegetable salsa or whatever without getting the blender's jar dirty. I take the Oster base off, screw on the lid, and store. (Let the record show, your honor, that I have been doing this for decades before magazines aimed at stressed suburbanites who dress out of those museum/public television catalogs came up with the notion.)



Beyond this, I like the way the jar looks with other, non-blendered edibles. I just marinated a whole mess of Gaeta olives and stored some triple concentrated chicken stock. In the top shelf of my underwhelming, underachieving, came-with-the-house refrigerator I have over 15 different jars.


I also use them to store/show off bulk spices, give away assorted rubs and spice/herb mixes, store some kinds of dried pasta, etc.



But that Oster blender, that makes everything so.much.better.


-J.

Posted by Joke at 11:57 PM 17 comments

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

By popular request: Steak & oven frites.

Okay.

I had to try this again, just to get photographic evidence. First, the steak part.

I used Kobe flatiron steaks, because they are the best deal going, steakwise. Considering that Kobe beef can hit upwards of -- no typo -- US$180/lb., this steak at a piddly US$5.99/lb. is practically theft.

These steaks come from what is most commonly called the "top blade roast." As you can see, it has one serious line of connective tissue down the center. Until fairly recently, this roast was sliced into steaks (the top blade steak) which preserved intact the connective tissue. Which made it really cheap, because even the 2nd tenderest steak with incredibly beefy favor (look at that marbling, and groove mightily therewith) will suffer in price when you have that inedible hunka gristle dividing it.

The trick is, simply to cut (or have the butcher cut) the icky bits out. In butcher parlance, you want the top blade roast (in case it's called something else where you are, use the picture...it comes from the chuck/shoulder area), and you want it "seamed out" and then you want the two main hunks cut across equatorially. Like so...

This should give you three decent steaks of about 10oz each (we cut one of those into halves for the kids) with some fiddly bits left over. Which you then grill ("barbecue") or sear in a hot skillet until done to your liking. (I like to season them very simply and give them a hard 3 minute sear per side, and then let it rest over a low heat. This results in medium-rare. TFBIM likes medium better, but we're working on her.)


This is how they look coming off the grill.

Now the frites. Start with the humble potato. In this case I was trying out a russet (any other "starchy" potato should prove equivalent) to compare it with the waxy ones of last week.

Cut them into the appropriate frites shape. Approximately 16 per potato.Put them in your steamer basket. Steam them until JUST PLIABLE. If you go beyond this two things (both bad) will happen: The starches in the potato's cut surface will gelatinize and will inhibit crispness and the potato flesh will overcook and break apart. You want the potatoes, duly steamed to offer SLIGHT resistance to a knife tip, but not so yielding the knife exits the other side with ease. This means 3-5 minutes (depending on the frites' dimensions) over a rolling boil.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Put in a roasting pan drizzled with oil (for this, I prefer peanut oil, you do whatever).

Toss in the steamed frites and drizzle more oil (You'll use less than a 1/4 cup for two whole potatoes) and then toss. Plunk back in the oven at 350F. In three minutes...

Set the oven to "broil." Blast the frites for 2-3 minutes (you should hear the sizzling, otherwise it's OK to peek once or twice).

Throw on paper towels (if you can find the brown paper towels you're in beautiful shape) and season generously with coarse sea salt.

Now, for a quickie tomato-shallot/spring onion pan sauce.

Take a pat of butter.

Melt it.

Chop a spring onion or shallot or even an sweet onion as fine as you can stand. This is halfway fine for me. (No pix of the later stages as I was weepy.)

Sautee the onion in the butter. When it's translucent, add a good tablespoon of tomato paste or, in this case, a couple of tablespoons of some leftover marinara sauce and a quarter cup of beef stock and any of the collected steak juices. (The latter is key.) At the very end add another pat of butter and OFF THE HEAT stir it in to dissolve it. If you let it melt first and then dissolve it, your sauce will be all separated and greasy looking and disgusting. This, for you lurid types, is called "mounting."

Serve.

This is the pile o' steak with some steamed asparagus.

This is NOS's plate (he put the sauce on the asparagus for some reason)

This is TFBIM's steak --perfectly medium, trust me, even though the photo is bad-- and this is the excellent wine:2001 Sterling Merlot, Napa Valley...the tannins have pretty much yielded to the fruit, and it complements the rich-ish steak beautifully.

There ya go!

-J.


Posted by Joke at 12:55 AM 9 comments

Monday, March 19, 2007

Unweekends.

To me, dear Internet, the weekend is a sacred thing.

Sometimes TFBIM has me roped into going to someone's birthday, or maybe there is something else to do for a few hours on Saturday. But, beyond that, I like staying put and, frankly, doing little-to-nothing. I need the time to decompress and sort of get back into my own head for a while and sift my thoughts. Thought-siftage isn't easy when you are deeply involved in office things and/or the children are sprinting around the house screaming and turning everything to desolation and ruin at 135dB.

So, when a Very Big Client calls up that he'll be in town from Argentina on Friday and he needs to go over all the stuff he hasn't gone over with me since he hasn't been by in 2 years, I know my weekend is shot to Hell.

Suffice it to say my weekend was filled with work (grandparents stepped into the breach) and then when that mentally exhausting bit was accomplished I had to sprint home to be able to catch Wicked: The Musical followed by dinnah out. All in a large group of WTM devotees.

About WTM, I can safely say it wasn't terrible. I would have never rushed myself to such an extend in order to go, but it wasn't unpleasant. It seems to have been very thoroughly enjoyed by the women-and-their-daughters in the audience (I guesstimate 65% of the crowd) as well as very snugly t-shirted, athletic young men almost all of whom had -- inexplicably -- this haircut; these masses of humanity were raving freely about the show while I was saying to myself "Meh. Not bad."

Since we had a matinee (invariably I hate matinees, but I had been looking forward to the show and this was all there was to be had) that meant that lunch didn't happen and we'd have an early dinner. TFBIM's SiL decided to make reservations for out theatregoing group somewhere in South Beach.

Now, for those of you not fully up to speed on South Beach (SoBe) it is an impossibly hip place to be. There are restaurants with names like "Touch" and nightclubs named "Opium." I reluctantly agreed, in part to avoid TFBIM's blue wrath and partly because I was cracking from within with hunger*. We ended up at a place Not Of My Choosing. It was agreed upon because "it has a little bit of everything" which means, honestly, it does nothing well. You simply can't have a restaurant serve Italian, Cuban, Spanish, "Pan-Asian" and Steakhouse Favorites and expect them all to be done properly.

So THAT is how my Saturday was shot, watching a show that was y'know a'ight and an underwhelming dinner.

Sunday (tired yet?) I had to sprint out to the South Florida Automotive Concours d'Elegance at 9am -- because I am stupid enough to be its organizer -- and get a modest sunburn as well as a significant portion of the park on my person then sprint out to catch the 5:30pm Mass only to get back to get dinner ready.

So here I am, cranky and tired and un-decompressed.

-J.

* In my rush of Sat. morning I omitted breakfast.

Posted by Joke at 7:47 AM 16 comments

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why we fight write. UPDATED

I was gamboling about the blogosphere, more or less minding my own business, when I stopped by Tere's blog and it got me thinking of "Hmm. Exactly why do I do this whole blogging thing." The very lovely and extremely gracious Poppy, charming cynic* that she is, would say it's because I am enraptured by the (so to speak) sound of my own voice.

Well, yeah, OK, there is that.

There are people who blog as an escape valve, to relieve some sort of pressure. "I blog to stay sane" goes the refrain. Others do so to locate, gravitate and coalesce with others who may be like-minded (The teeming masses of excellent knitters and/or rabid readers spring to mind.) or have similar issues/challenges (children with special needs, say) in their lives.

To ascertain why I blog (and rather frequently, too) to say nothing of the reveling in combox chatter** as well as for whom do I write when I do, the best I can do is give Poppy partial credit. But also, blogging keeps me out of trouble. 99% of the trouble in which I have ever found myself has sprung directly from being bored out of my skull and -- surprise --I get bored very easily. Along these lines, I think of myself as an evangelist for geniality and an apostle of civilized behavior. With that as a starting point, as people sort of became fellow-travelers of this blog, I guess I write/wrote with them in mind; to find ways of phrasing things or choosing what to mention so that it would prove pleasant reading therefor, became important.

So, I invariably steer clear of religion and politics and weighty stuff. Technically, it can be said I also stay away from introspective sorts of posts, but that only because I am not sure at what point introspection becomes navel-gazing and it's a whole lot easier to give the entire subject a complete miss. So, if someone comes here to see me ponder my role in the world, to read about me philosophize of what it's like to be the only X in a world of Z they likely will leave quietly after a short while. (For example, all the brigades of readers who came over after shaveblog.com gave me a plug are pretty much gone, dejected to see an near dearth of shave-related information.)

My job here, therefore, is to entertain. Sort of. Maybe you laugh, maybe you scratch your head, maybe you get some useful cookery info. But whatever woe was weighing you down might have felt a little lighter for a few minutes, which is cool.

This reminds me I have been remiss in a foodie way. Not my fault. I was going to do a whole steak-frites post, but my camera's battery went belly-up just as I was about to start in on my paean to the flatiron steak and how to make oven fries*** that are better than the deep-fried kind.

So, um, mea culpa.

-J.

* "I'm not a cynic," is what Poppy might say "I just know you too damned well. Idiot."
** The two are not really related. Some people post often but never start/join the combox converstions, others are the opposite.
*** The gist of the recipe -- there will be more detailed instruction, I promise--is to cut the potatoes (russet, but all I had were Yukon Gold, and this was still good) into 1/2" x 1/2" fries -- chips to the rest of the Anglosphere -- and then put them to (wait for it!) steam until they are pliably floppy, about 8 min. I used stacking steamers and I inverted the top and bottom baskets midway through. Put them in one layer over paper towels and pat dry. Gently! Give them a quick, light dusting with cornstarch and then toss into a preheated roasting pan coated with oil (I prefer peanut, but you do whatever) and sprinkle some more oil, just a bare minimum. Toss. Throw back in oven at 375F. Cook for 12 min., then put on the broiler and blast it for 3-5 minutes. Take out, put on paper towels and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Posted by Joke at 3:28 PM 12 comments

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Icky or weird? YOU decide!

So I went for my usual workout.

As I am maneuvering between the various machines, and weights and things I catch sight of a gentleman easily 20 years my senior. Only he is unlike most gentlemen 20 years my senior. His hair, while it was receding and greying, had the greying remnants tied back in an insouciant ponytail. He is, by all indications, in very good shape.

He is wearing some sort of stretchy sleeveless shirt and bicycle shorts of what appear to be, from my VERY CURSORY GLANCE, seriously snug. (I did not, you'll be pleased to note, seek to confirm this impression.) Furthermore he seems blessed with having hair (likewise greying) in places where lemurs, etc. don't.

He had an iPod of some description strapped to his arm and he was listening to Three 6 Mafia and Linkin Park and The Offspring and Green Day and something gangsta-ish I couldn't recognize beyond mysogyny/firearms/the luxuriant use of the word "fuck" as a verb, at such levels that I, not being in proximity to the headphones of said iPod, could easily discern he was listening to Three 6 Mafia and Linkin Park and The Offspring and Green Day and something gangsta-ish I couldn't recognize beyond mysogyny/firearms/the luxuriant use of the word "fuck" as a verb.

He also had a jewel encrusted gold watch the size of a doorknob and a large, diamond-like stud earring in his (I believe) left ear. He looked like Harrison Ford's pimp taking a spa day.

He headed to the lockers while I performed the rest of my routine, and when I went in to take a steam* our hero was applying an impressive array of undereye serum, somethingsomething Repair Creme and the like.

If I ever become a geriatric metrosexual, you may all line up, in alphabetical order, and shoot me.

-J.

* The trick is to take a steam after working out, before taking a shower and then after all that, shaving for a supreme achievement in closeness; what the cognoscenti refer to as faceturbatorily close.

Posted by Joke at 5:17 PM 14 comments

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It had to happen sometime.

NOS, the angelic one, the kind one finally had his first moment of fury. He was playing with some friends outside, and he came in with tears in his eyes.

Uh oh.

We asked what happened. He was playing fine with Friend A and Friend B and their friend Co-Friend C. As best I could piece it together, A&B wanted to show off to C and started making fun of NOS. This went on for quite sometime when NOS just.F'ING.snapped and hauled off and slugged not one, but TWO of them. Mind you, all of the other kids are a good half-foot taller than he is, so the possibility they might have decided to turn NOS into a jelly was not an indistinct, remote contingency.

It took the better part of 20 minutes because NOS was so sad/livid/betrayed that he couldn't talk straight. "First [sniff] B [sniff] said [cough, sniff] that [sniff, sniff] I had to [sob,sniff], etc."

Oy.

It is an article of faith with me that parenting ought be done in a weed-and-seed approach. You provide appropriate feedback when you want a behavior to continue or develop, and another appropriate feedback when you want to extinguish a behavior. Socking people in the chops -- as opposed to socking them back, a wildly different thing -- even when provoked, is not acceptable. I impressed upon NOS that we simply do not hit people first, no matter what. "Oh, if Whatshisface, say, punches you, then you have my blessings to respond in such a way that Whatshisface will consider it wisest to cease and desist." But that is a matter of self-defense. To get so upset the response is a haymaker or uppercut is not a pattern I'd like to see blossom in through the years.

So NOS was, ahem, escorted to A&B's house and he duly apoologized for resorting to force in the face of teasing. A&B's mom was duly horrified at the teasing and a few moments later A&B* were at our doorstep apologizing for having teased and provoked NOS. All apologies seemed sincere and contrite and little hands shook and play resumed organically with, as of this morning, no incident worthy of comment.

In the moments of calm I drive home the point of the difference between acting in self-defense and being aggressive and how to determine whether something crosses that certain line, and to absent yourself if needed and defend yourself verbally without escalation. Granted, this is pretty difficult even for grownups, so I'm not expecting miracles or flawless behavior. Still, it's important for NOS to know what standards we strive to maintain, and why and what the consequences are for not doing so. After all, if there are rewards for being kind and gentle and caring and generous, then there are also equivalent consequences to being aggressive or impatient or ill-tempered. In this case, he had to march two houses down and apologize, and do without TV for the evening. Both of which he accepted and understood.

But, oy.

How I'm not cross-eyed after this episode I chalk up to the overtime put in by my guardian angel.

-J.

* C, the likely Iago of the piece, had been picked up and gone home some time before apologies started flying.

Posted by Joke at 8:17 AM 15 comments

Monday, March 12, 2007

Oh, and another thing.

Today, being The Day After* started out as a lot of damned fun. But then yesterday finished up as being a lot of fun, also.

Y'see, the Joke chillun are not stupid. They know they are being fooled by their parents when they say it's bedtime and yet it's light out, or that it's dinnertime when the sun is visible or, more importanmtly, that it's time to awaken -- remember, they didn't go to sleep until the light faded from the heavens -- when it's dark out.

So, not being stupid, they become impassioned recusants. Which led me to issue threats and howl warnings of impending loss of privileges and in NOS's case, of heading schoolwards in an unbreakfasted** state.

Still, I reserve my bile for whomever was the cretin who came up with this harebrained scheme, as toxic and noxious (albeit in a different way) as the income tax or the speed limit. Why daylight ought be saved has never been satisfactorily explained to me, save by NOS who touts its magical abilities to allow him to play longer outside. Somehow, this roseate view abandoned him this morning as I attempted (with the bare minimum success) to roust him out and get him out the door.

Because I think I should boycott the entire enterprise, yesterday I didn't adjust my watch, I changed watches. A while ago I managed to get two very nice watches, almost identical, on eBay. I say "almost" because one had a white face and the other the black one. So, in the spirit of protest and "petition for the redress of grievances" I wear the black faced watch throughout our ordeal.

In other news, today I celebrate my 200th post to be consigned to the draft pile.

-J.

* i.e., postapocalyptic.
** TFBIM would stand in the doorway with a dagger at ther own slender throat rather than allow anyone a breakfast-free egress.

Posted by Joke at 8:04 AM 9 comments

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Aw, dammit.

Today is the most loathsome day of the year.

[stream of grumbled profanities]

-J.

Posted by Joke at 7:41 AM 6 comments

Friday, March 09, 2007

The internet is contagious.

Yesterday, it seems, was a day devoted to pedriatic adventures. NOS had a follow-up at the pediatric endocrinologist, where the diagnosis of "late bloomer" has been confirmed. Basically, he is growing just fine, albeit at a slow pace. Considering that TFBIM didn't ::cough, cough:: read The Red Badge of Courage until she was about 15 and my puberty was held up by the Customs people, the doctor said it is to be expected and nothing to worry about and then, in an aside told NOS to eat his vegetables or all bets were off.

Because he is a slow grower -- and not a Bonsai Boy -- he is still growing and has grown out of some of his dressed-up clothes. When we first started getting him dressy stuff we were somewhat assuaged by the fact that he was likely to not wear them out before he had grown them out and, therefore, NTS could get excellent use out of same. (To hedge our bets, we went out and got decent stuff and not cheapies, so as to optimize our chances for pediatric sartorial longevity.) Which is true, to a point, with NTS not being a slow grower and mo' athletic* than NOS.

But anyway, NOS has a few events coming up over the next months and these events inescapably call for, at a bare minimum, a new blazer and flannels and possibly a suit. So off we went. We managed to score a nice (and, more importantly, cool) seersucker suit he loved because "It's like making a suit out of pajamas." We also managed to find some lightweight grey wool trousers** but no go on the blazer, size-wise.

We grabbed a couple of ties and we were good to go.

NOS was very impressed with the fact the first time he went to some event all dressed up, the girls took note and wouldn't leave him alone. While at the time, being (literally) cornered and kissed by 7-8 girls didn't strike him as all that much fun, time seems to have moderated his views on the matter, although he has hinted he prefers being allowed to have an input in this sort of thing. Clearly a broadminded lad.

NTS, was in a not-exactly-crabby mood, but once he realized he was going to tag along for errand-making purposes, voiced his displeasure. Only when we stopped to effect the purchase of victuals (where he realized that treats generally follow exhibiting acceptable behavior) did he calm down. Which worked out well, because he had to try the various clothes once we got home.

To a dad, nothing says "my boy is growing up" more than the lad shedding outgrown raiments in favor of new ones. Much like a lobster, I suppose. The older a boy gets, the less awkwardly cut the clothes become (have you seen a blazer cut for a 4 year old?) and the more of a "young man" he looks. You see, using NOS as an example, that he stands differently, looks at his surroundings differently and just has a different bearing than he had just a few months back.

While we were doing the try-on thing, I switched my attentions to NTS who needed help wrestling into a jacket. NOS was looking at us, leaned up against the doorframe, hands in his pockets and legs crossed at the ankle, taking the scene in a benevolently detached way.

NTS, too. Normally he considers dress-up clothes to be KGB torture devices but he was actually keeping still and not trying to rend his garments in a move to escape.

It's a good thing my wife wasn't around to see the try-on, because she would have started bawling and saying things like "my little baby!" causing NOS to roll his eyes and possibly detach his retinae. Which would necessitate a visit to the doctor and, frankly, the Internet has had all it can take of that.

-J.

* NTS is 3" shorter and 3 lb. heavier than NOS, even though he is 18 months younger. And they are both VERY lean -- as in "look at my six-pack."
** The current ones, TFBIM decided to hem and, um, she left herself with a nonexistent margin for vertical growth.

Posted by Joke at 5:53 PM 6 comments

Thursday, March 08, 2007

See if this makes sense to you. [UPDATED!]

My wife, for all her manifold virtues, has some serious weirdnesses about her.

Last night, as I am wandering around the house looking for a way to rescue an injured bottle of aftershave, I catch a glimpse of what she's watching on TV. It's a documentary on some sort of awful -- and I mean awful -- birth defects. She's beholding this in rapt attention. Then, when it ends, there's another one on exorcism. Other nights she might be watching something on reconstructive surgery for people involved in lawn-care mishaps or documentaries of people who have been tortured by the KGB for being pedestrians.

This morning, like most mornings, as she is rushing out to work, she asks me "Did you read the paper this morning? Did you read about ____? Isn't it terrible?" My wife doesn't react to stories of national import or global significance. What the Senate approved or the United Nations decided mean nothing to her. Now, you print a story about how some criminals burglarized the dwelling of an octogenarian and my wife is like a moth at a forest fire.

You'll hear sympathetic sound effects from behind her tankard of cappuccino. "Oh, how terrible!" Pause. "Amazing." Longer pause. "Then, the burglars stole her kidneys! Can you imagine!? She's elderly and she probably uses her kidneys, a lot." That sort of thing. Regular misery (y'know, genocide, natural disasters, starvation and/or garden-variety oppression) don't hold much appeal. But stuff like an old lady having her kidneys stolen, and possibly her liver as well -- Nana wasn't sure if she had left her liver behind over at her friend Myrtle's -- and a beatific sort of look comes over my wife. She was positively incandescent when that whole "astronaut with the diapers/attempted abduction & murder" thing came out.

So, I have declared her "Recreationally morbid."

-J.

[UPDATE!] Last night we had dinner on the late-ish side, since TFBIM would be getting home "early" (early for it being tax season). During dinner, a sip of wine went down the wrong way which sent TFBIM coughing up a storm. In mid-fit, she YELPS "Ow! HOLY $#!+*" and resumed coughing only to punctuate her coughs with imprecations and oaths. Once this spectacle had concluded she explained "I was coughing so hard, I hurt my ovary."

* With the kids, like, right there.

Posted by Joke at 8:47 AM 14 comments

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Who, me?

Whoa.

I've just been offered -- no details whatsoever, yet...but it seems quite legit -- a supposedly paying gig as a columnist for a wine webzine (Vinapedia.net).

The pay will almost certainly be penury, or less...but! BUT! I'll be getting all kinds of free wine all the damned time.

Worship me,

-J.

Posted by Joke at 10:33 PM 15 comments

Monday, March 05, 2007

Balance is the key.

After reading the latest from the lovely and gracious Suse, plus all the ensuing combox discussions it struck me that I ought do my bit to reconcile the Version 1 style of blogging vs. Version 2 style of blogging.

This inestimable public service I hereby christen Version 1.5.

The trick -- and it takes some practice, granted -- is to develop a benevolent and kind solipsism. In my case, all I want to do is be left alone to read in peace, have a pleasant tipple or two, and draw forth much slavish fawning over my wit, wardrobe and cooking. Well, by "much" I mean "not so much that it cuts into my reading time."

This is my psychological point of reference...my center, if you will. Every effort I make is geared towards putting me back there. While there, I am a kind, gentle, loving soul. However, reality is a powerful motivating force and I am often drawn off-center. Sometimes to such an extent that even I have grave difficulties returning.

Children, f'rinstance.

Sometimes they insist on playing with me and, because I am not a complete lowlife bastid, I acquiesce. The goal becoming to tire out the child(ren) in question. "Let's see who can do the most pushups!" I might say, pitting one against the other. Or they may skate around the block while supervised by a loving parent on bicycle. Pretty soon the cry goes heavenward "Daddy, I'm tired."

So I then decant each child in a shower, with plenty of soapy distractions and I go back to my reading for another good 30 minutes.

Of course, there are times when the children don't want so much paternal attention as they do paternal vexation. Which is understandable. Freud, Adler, Jung, Skinner & Joyce Brothers all wrote extensively of this phenomenon. This is tricky, because the temptation is to shout at them to such an extent your lungs swap places with your diaphragm. AFter all, you've just told the boy to do his homework for the third time and, in lieu of same he has turned his room upside down and scrawled anatomically incorrect caricatures of zoo animals on the bedroom wall. The impulse to rattle the roof with your decibels is too strong for many. The forbidden fruit of parenting beckons and many often eat it at this point.

But shouting has a serious drawback in my view. It requires effort. One must summon up blood pressure, expand the thoracic cavity, and send over much ventilated wrath across the vocal cords. I'm tired of just thinking such a thing. Furthermore, if the blogosphere is to be believed, many are washed over with a pounding surf of guilt afterwards. I can't fathom going though all that trouble just to be miserable. One can get just as miserable by just listening to one's spouse's friends.

What I do, and which I consider far preferable, is to raise my voice (some effort is expended, sure, but there's no avoiding it) and issue a threat. The threat has to be pretty severe, so the child(ren) in question must consider the contingency well nigh unlivable. Then you issue a timeline. Then you walk away and go read for a while, maybe having a cocktail if it's the appropriate time for such a thing.

Upon return you will see either of two scenarios: The matter has been rectified to your satisfaction or (if we're talking about my kids) it hasn't. So you carry out the threat, reminding the young and probably lachrymose malefactor:

1- This hurts you more than it hurts him (because you'd rather be reading than removing the DVD player or incarcerating his TurboManTM Action Figure),
2- This is for his own good (because if he continues vexing you just might sell him for medical experiments this time or, at a bare minimum issue a spanking appropriate to the offense), and
3- He was warned. This last one bears repeating frequently, in your best James Mason voice. (Or, if you're of a female disposition, Julie Andrews voice)

This intersects beautifully in the matter of housekeeping.

If your day's goal is to spend it on the sofa, reading, or shopping. There will be relatively little to accomplish, housekeeping-wise. (Mind you, if you have pets, all bets are off.) A bit of music as you stuff washing machines, dryers, or perambulate with a sweeper etc. makes the task at hand comparatively pleasant. The only dangers to household neatness are those whom you have offsprung. But if you keep in mind that anything they get dirty they must clean up, the stress evaporates.

Which leaves cooking. Since I happen to love cooking and the kids love helping this is no chore at all. Cleaning is easy, because the dishwasher does this. The tricky bit -- and follow closely here -- is removing previously cleaned plates and storing them properly. Convincing the tykes this is a sporting matter with some incentive (toys or currency or extra bits of dessert) for showing enthusiasm and efficiency. Well, efficiency, at any rate.

I will be signing books in the lobby afterwards.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 8:28 AM 8 comments

Saturday, March 03, 2007

In cyberspace, no one can hear you meme.

The very lovely and quite gracious Poppy has posted an interesting meme ovah theah on her blog. The rules are quite simple. Go over to popculturemadness.com, click on the decade you turned 18, find the actual year you turned 18, and copy the top songs for that year...pasting them. Then you Bold the ones you liked; strikeout the ones you hated; and italicize the ones about which you were neutral. The ones you've never heard will stay unformatted. I assume this means at the time...not that my tastes have evolved much in the intervening decades.

1. Mickey - Toni Basil
2. Apache - Sugarhill Gang
3. Through The Years - Kenny Rogers
4. I Love Rock and Roll - Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
5. Open Arms - Journey
6. 867-5309 (Jenny Jenny) - Tommy Tutone
7. Eye Of The Tiger - Survivor
8. You Dropped A Bomb On Me - Gap Band
9. Hard To Say I'm Sorry - Chicago

10. I'm So Excited - Pointer Sisters
11. Ribbon In The Sky - Stevie Wonder
12. On The Wings Of Love - Jeffrey Osborne
13. State of Independence - Donna Summer
14. We Got The Beat - GoGos
15. She's Got a Way - Billy Joel
16. Rock This Town - Stray Cats
17. Up Where We Belong - Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes
18. Tainted Love - Softcell
19. One Hundred Ways - Quincy Jones and James Ingram
20. Who Can It Be Now - Men at Work
21. Get Down On it - Kool & the Gang
22. Turn Your Love Around - George Benson
23. Let It Whip - Dazz Band
24. Planet Rock - Afrika Bambaataa
25. Gloria - Laura Branigan
26. Everybody Wants You - Billy Squire
27. Always On My Mind - Willie Nelson
28. Don't You Want Me - Human League
29. I Want Candy - Bow Wow Wow
30. Waiting On A Friend - Rolling Stones
31. Genius Of Love - Tom Tom Club
32. Goobye To You - Scandal
33. Situation - Yaz

34. Circles - Atlantic Starr
35. Memory - Barbra Streisand
36. Abacab - Genesis
37. Cool (Part 1) - The Time
38. Juke Box Hero - Foreigner
39. Hot In The City - Billy Idol
40. Shadows Of The Night - Pat Benatar
41. Murphy's Law - Cheri
42. You've Got Another Thing Comin' - Judas Priest
43. Jack and Diane - John Cougar (Mellencamp)
44. Leader Of The Band - Dan Fogelberg
45. Workin' For A Livin' - Huey Lewis and the News
46. Working For The Weekend - Loverboy
47. Truly - Lionel Richie
48. Mama Used To Say - Junior
49. Paperlate - Genesis
50. I Wouldn't Have Missed It For The World - Ronnie Milsap
51. Under Pressure - Queen and David Bowie
52. I Know What Boys Like - The Waitresses
53. Going To A Go-Go - Rolling Stones
54. Hurt So Good - John Cougar (Melloncamp)
55. Maneater - Hall and Oates

56. Kids In America - Kim Wilde
57. Love Plus One - Haircut One Hundred
58. Should I Stay Or Should I Go - The Clash
59. I Feel Like A Number - Bob Seger
60. I Ran (So Far Away) - A Flock Of Seagulls
61. Centerfold - J. Geils Band
62. Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) - Elton John
63. I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) - Hall and Oates
64. Vacation - GoGo's
65. Early In The Morning - Gap Band
66. Someday, Someway - Marshall Crenshaw
67. Abracadabra - Steve Miller Band
68. I've Never Been To Me - Charlene
69. Leather and Lace - Stevie Nicks and Don Henley
70. Steppin' Out - Joe Jackson
71. I Will Always Love You - Dolly Parton
72. Let Me Tickle Your Fancy - Jermaine Jackson (& Devo)
73. Shakin' - Eddie Money
74. The Message - Grandmaster Flash
75. Talk Talk - Talk Talk

You will notice, kind reader, that there is much I never heard (19 out of 75!). If it was on a station that played rhythm & blues or disco (i.e. "rhythm & blues" for people with neither) or country, it simply never crossed my radar. I rarely bothered with Top 40 stuff, and what did manage to slip into my eardrum was rejected quite frequently. Come to think of it, it still does. I was lucky to grow up pretty close to one of those College Radio Stations (the ones with music you never heard anywhere else and a whopping 16 watts of power) and that shaped my destiny musically speaking.

Now you know.

-J.

Posted by Joke at 5:55 PM 14 comments

Friday, March 02, 2007

A father's job is never done

As is my custom, I conduct a post mortem of the day during dinner.

Between rounds of hectoring NTS to please for the love of all that is holy quit daydreaming and finish his dinner, I was interrogating NOS on the details of how his day had unfolded. 99.9% of the time, it's the same stuff...what books they are reading, what tests they have upcoming, pending visits to assorted musea and I do my paternal best to feign take a serious interest in all.the.bloody.minutiæ. ("I'd like to thank the Academy...")

But this time was different. Which just goes to show how you may be called upon to impart a life lesson at any time.

In his class, NOS has a group project* wherein they have to come up with a game related to a an almost certainly foul** book titled The Whipping Boy. In an exposition of brainpower in action, NOS's teacher decided to let the kids form their own groups. Yeah.

So, as a consequence, some kids had a bit of a rough time getting into a group. You'd think interviews, references, test scores and family connections were needed. But most got in without too harrowing a time of it. Most. Not all.

One kid was shuffled from group to group until he landed in NOS's. From the standpoint of 9 year olds, I can see why. Child X is considered, frankly, an outright weirdo by his peers. Not eccentric (NOS is pretty much the tolerable limit of eccentricity at his school) but weird, and undesirably so. He spends his free time spouting tabloid-worthy factoids on aliens, ancient civilizations, mummies, paranormal phenomena, etc.

Therefore he gets no traction, socially. Seeing NOS's group as a sort of last refuge he joined. To the consternation of NOS's friend R. It bears noting that R. is no prize his own bad self. R's new task in life is to effect the egress of Child X from the group and during the time he is assiduously endeavoring towards that goal, become as unpleasant as possible.

The problem with Child X is that his parents just wrapped up a very long, nasty, vitriolic divorce. My guesstimate is that all of this was not kept from Child X. Dad X is now dating a younger (allegedly French, FWIW) woman whose only real skills, I surmise, are not likely to be ever given public evidence, unless there is a case of snakebite nearby, with which circumstance she would be admirably suited to cope. Mom X is a specimen herself (marrying a man 25 years your senior with a, um, previous track record of Not Good At The Lifelong Thing is not something that inspires confidence). Any woman who lets her kid go about school with a pageboy haircut when the all other boys are all within one standard deviation of "crew cut" is not a woman who has...what you'd call a choke hold on reality.

Prior to this, I had to tell NOS to stop teasing Child X about that whole French lady thing. Child X was going off on one of his tirades about aliens and mummies and how all the other kids were idiots--IDIOTS!--for not believing until one day it'll be too late...and NOS said something smartassed*** about X's dad and the French lady. So I had to correct, NOS rather sharply on the matter, and afterwards explain to him why I had to issue such a sharp correction.

I 'splained that Mr. & Mrs. X had decided that it was time they tormented other people and having jettisoned each other (in Dad X's case, again) in a very mean, contentious way...it probably messed up X rather badly. "He probably feels very unwanted and unnoticed and that's why he is saying outlandish things. He's probably a good kid, who got very hurt and this is the only way he has figured out to deal with things. You're very lucky Mom and I love each other and all that. If--God forbid--we ever got a divorce, you'd probably get kinda weird yourself. Why, if R's parents ever got divorced--God forbid some more--you know that R would totally go triple-turbo weird, right?"

To which NOS nodded assent.

I further explained that since he had been elected group captain, he had to show some leadership. He was to take R. aside and explain the above and tell him to stop acting like a sniveling imbecile**** and cut Child X some slack.

Me: Tell R. that, on top of it all, it's Lent, and he should try to be charitable.
NOS: He said he doesn't care about Lent.
Me: Tell him he will burn in everlasting Hellfire.
(pause)
Me: Wait. Don't tell him that.***** Tell him that if Sister Principal finds out, she will not be pleased with him. At all.
NOS: OK. Can I tell him he is a jerk?
Me: Hmm. That's tough. (pause) Tell him that you don't want him acting like a jerk. So if he tells on you, then you can honestly say you didn't call him a jerk.
NOS: OK. Oh, and D. bopped me in the face with his lunchbox****** so I kicked him.
Me: Where?
NOS: At the bottom of the stairwell.
Me: No. Um, what part of D. did you kick?
NOS: Shin. My backpack is pretty heavy. I didn't want to fall.
Me: Very sensible.
NOS: What do I do if D. starts trouble? [D. is also in the project group]
Me: Just say to him "What are you going to do, hit me with your purse again?"
NOS: [Loud burst of laughter] Yeah!
Me: But back to Child X. I want you to be nice to him...
NOS: But he's a weirdo!!
Me: I'm [vexed pause] not asking you to become his blood brother or to donate a kidney. I just want you to be c-h-a-r-i-t-a-b-l-e to him. Don't pick on him, don't tease him, and don't put up with anyone who does the same. Look, a real man is someone who stands between someone who is hurt or weak or helpless and something terrible or mean. Do you get that?
NOS: Yeah.
Me: I'm not asking you to be his best friend for life. I'm not asking you to be his bodyguard. All I'm asking you to treat him fairly and not let people tease or bully him. That's all. Do you understand that?

And then I had to go back to holler at NTS who was blowing bubbles with this milk.

Oy.

Parenting.

-J.

* I am, and have been for quite some time (possibly decades) of the opinion group projects are an abysmal waste of time.

** If the subject is called "Language Arts" instead of "English" the books are far more likely to be abysmal.

*** Gee, where'd he get that?

**** I think I actually said "goofball"

***** I was tempted to say "Let the little @#$%er be surprised."

****** Now I know why they stopped making the metal lunchboxes.

Posted by Joke at 9:04 AM 9 comments